After destroying and ransacking a Syrian church, a U.S.-supported jihadi poses to mock Christianity. (Raymond Ibrahim)
In Syria, Islamists have again captured the Christian town of Maaloula. They took prisoner 12 nuns two weeks ago and have since held them in the neighbouring town of Yabroud. Meanwhile, Internet antique shops have featured offers to sell Maaloula relics. That’s the way the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters are earning their daily bread.
But clerics in the ancient Christian town of Maaloula continue ringing their church bells despite the ongoing fighting, blasts and the abduction of nuns.
This is actually the only reminder of the once quiet life in the small town. The Islamists, – the Jabhat al-Nusra movement fighters, again occupied the town early this month. They broke their pledge not to harm anyone or damage the town’s sacred sites and took 12 nuns prisoner. The nuns have since been held in the neighbouring town of Yabroud.
It is now clear that the promised respect for the holy Christian places was a lie. Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper reported several days ago that several early Christian crosses, holy vessels and statues from Maaloula have been put up for sale on the Internet. The mediators acting on behalf of An-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are looking for rich customers. Syrian relics have been stolen for more than two years now, with major museums across the world having already drawn up the “red list” of Syrian artifacts that may “accidentally” surface on the market. According to Sheila Canby, the Head of the New York-based Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Islamic Art, the artifacts that can be taken out of Syria are running into danger, namely such small things as vessels and paraments, above all the enamel and glass works.
Syrian rebels have vandalized and looted Christian churches across Syria.
Graffiti mars the renowned frescoes of Mar Sarkis Church in Sadad, Syria, after opposition fighters occupied the church in October 2013. The graffiti reads, “No banner but the banner of Islam. Down with Bashar. Jabhat al-Nusra, Liwa al-Tawhid. (Human Rights Watch)